COLERAINE Rugby Club faces a stern test in the first league match of the season at the weekend.
The Bannsiders are away to Clogher Valley in their first meeting in the Kukri Qualifying League, Section 1. It is always a tough fixture, especially away from home, and all the more so as the opening match of the season, and to add to the drama the Seconds are playing there as well.
Coleraine coach Stevie Ritchie feels that his new look side could spring a surprise on their rivals. He said: “This possibly the hardest match we will have all season, away to a strong side like Clogher Valley.
“We have a bus booked, the Firsts and Seconds are travelling together, and we are not going there to go through the motions. It will be full on and no holds barred.
“Our back row is strong and mobile and we hopefully will be able to match Clogher in the set pieces. The back line is also looking strong and hopefully the pitch will survive the rain and not be too slow.
“It will certainly set the scene for the rest of the season. We are in a very strong league where many of the teams are more than capable of senior rugby. Every match will be tough and we are all really looking forward to getting started.”
The tempo at training has been building up and now the coaches face the difficult process of picking the teams. Stevie said: “The squad is strong and training is going well. All positions are up for grabs and there is a lot of competition.
“We have had a few minor injuries through training but they are all sorting out now. “In the backs I have been impressed with players like Jonny Henderson, Alex Gourley and Dean Rankin has made a welcome return to Coleraine. Paul Roxborough is looking strong and David Andrews has come back after an early injury scare.
“In the forwards we have seen a lot effort from players such as Josh Christie, Danny Ramage, Aaron McLaughlin and Stuart Evans. Kenny Calladine is back and looking ready for action.
“All in all we have a lot of talent and depth in the squad, we have had great effort at training and now it is time to put all that to the test. And the test begins at Clogher Valley.”
The First and Second XV are both travelling to Clogher Valley on Saturday, September 1, for league fixtures. There are a few seats available on the team bus for travelling supporters. Enquire at the club.